Sharks' Boedker leads the way after coming out of the lineup

Sharks' Boedker leads the way after coming out of the lineup

EDMONTON – Mikkel Boedker and Pete DeBoer may never get on the same page regarding the forward’s removal from the lineup two games ago. Boedker didn’t agree that he “took his foot off the gas,” as the coach said, yet DeBoer used the phrase for a second time immediately after Boedker’s starring role in the Sharks’ 5-3 win over Edmonton at Rogers Place on Tuesday night.

That difference of opinion is, essentially, not important. What is, though, is that Boedker starts producing more offensively after signing a four-year, $16 million contract with San Jose in the offseason.

In that regard, he’s showing signs of life. Boedker scored three goals against the Oilers, including the game-winner in the second period, responding from being a healthy scratch against Minnesota last Thursday. He also got a goal on Saturday against Detroit.

Getting another goal so soon, on his first shift of the night in Edmonton, allowed him to skate with less of a weight on his shoulders for the rest of the evening. His next two scores came in the second period, increasing San Jose’s lead to 4-1.

“When you score your first shift, you’re going to feel good the whole game,” Boedker said. “They came my way today, and it was three good goals.”

DeBoer, who was pleased with Boedker’s play just before the Christmas break but not so much in the week after, called the winger’s performance, “Huge. That’s what we need from him.”

Boedker spent most of his first eight seasons in the NHL with Arizona, and was given some rope by the coaching staff early in the season to get used to the Sharks’ systems and style. Despite playing in a top six position for 22 of the first 38 games, he wasn’t doing much of anything. Far too often, he didn’t appear as if was playing all that hard, making soft plays with the puck and getting pushed around on the wall and in the corners.

Still, Pavelski indicated after Tuesday’s game that Boedker has fit in well with the group, and said it was good to see him finally have what they all hope is a breakout performance.

"He's such a good teammate and such a solid person. There were some games where maybe he played harder than others, or not – it doesn't really matter,” Pavelski said. “You understand a guy with that kind of character, he was going to come out and he was going to play.”

“To see him out the last couple games find a little bit of momentum, a little flow to his game, it was good to see the puck go in for him.”

The puck has been going in frequently for the Sharks as a team, with 15 goals in their last three games. Although they still look a bit loose defensively of late, and goalie Martin Jones has surrendered 16 goals over his last five games, the Sharks are showing that they still have what it takes to run up the score. And that’s with no support from the power play, which is 0-for-8 in the last four games.

About time you start getting some consistent offense, Pete?

“I think it is about time,” the coach agreed. “We’ve been generating chances all year, we just haven’t had a lot of luck around the net. Hasn’t been bouncing for us. Hopefully, it’s a sign of good things to come here in the second half.”

Although the offense was lively again, Tuesday’s game wasn’t exactly perfect. Leading 4-1 after two periods, the Oilers came out hard to start the third period and quickly got back into it with a pair of goals. 

DeBoer, though, learned a lesson from last Thursday’s game against the Wild, when Minnesota reeled off four straight scores to win 5-4 in regulation after trailing 4-2 earlier in the final frame. The Sharks’ coach admitted afterward that he should have used his timeout to try and change the momentum in that deflating defeat.

He did this time, and the Sharks went back up by two goals on Logan Couture’s breakaway score just one minute and 21 seconds after DeBoer huddled his team around the bench.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who returned after a four-game absence with a facial injury, said: "They had momentum, they scored two goals, they could have easily had a third one to tie the game. I thought [DeBoer] used [the timeout] really well to let it kind of die down.”

The Sharks will attempt to stay hot offensively against the Flames on Wednesday, as the start of the second half officially begins. Perhaps Boedker can lead the way again.

“He’s in for a big second half,” DeBoer said. “We need him.”

Boedker said: “Just [have to] make sure that I do the things that I’m relied on to do, and relied on from the other guys to do.”

* * *

Defenseman Dylan DeMelo did not play after leaving the game in the second period. It sounds like he’ll miss some time after getting an apparent slash in the wrist area from Zack Kassian.

“It doesn’t look too promising,” DeBoer said. “He won’t play [Wednesday], and we’ll get back and get some pictures of it when we get home.”

“I think it was a fluky kind of play. It wasn’t anything dirty, from what I understand.”

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.